Beachgoers dropped 123,000 items of litter weighing 1.5 tonnes in just one week in Bournemouth, a drone survey has found in a UK first.

The alarming litter patterns along Bournemouth beach in Dorset during the May half-term holiday were mapped using drone technology, artificial intelligence and fixed cameras.

The study showed that over 1.5 tonnes of rubbish was left behind by visitors, a third of which were glass bottles.

Some 47,467 cigarette butts, 32,678 pieces of paper such as receipts or napkins, and 6,578 plastic fragments were also dumped.

It also recorded 1,677 food sachets, 1,530 plastic bottles, 370 toys, 342 wet wipes and 147 juice cartons.

The volume of litter was said to have been caused by just 20 per cent of the visitors on the beach during that week, with the majority taking their rubbish home with them.

It is thought the easing of lockdown restrictions contributed to an influx of tourists keen to enjoy the hot weather after a year of isolation.

The 'heat map' showing the areas worst affected by litter

Credit: BNPS

A total of 18 sites along the seafront were monitored between May 27 and June 2, covering an overall area of 475,000sq metres.

The drones were operated by waste-tracking sustainable technology company Ellipsis Earth and the pioneering project was carried out in partnership with BCP Council, the environmental charity Hubbub and fast food giant McDonald’s.

The data collected will be used by the council to produce a map of “litter hotspots” so the council knows where to locate bins on the seafront for “maximum effect” in the future.

The drone technology is able to identify 47 different types of litter and the high-resolution cameras can pick out the brand on a cigarette butt.

The survey was the first of this nature to be carried out in Britain, following on from a trial of the drone technology in the Italian town of Sorrento last summer.

Mark Anderson, the portfolio holder for environment, cleansing and waste at BCP council, said: "Even though we have miles of award-winning beaches, the ongoing stats and subsequent results will certainly help us to look at our bin locations and refuse logistics on the seafront, in our open spaces and town centre locations.

"The problem is not the 80 per cent of the population who come to our beaches and take the litter home or put them in the appropriate bin, it’s the 20 per cent who ignore this, leading to these results."